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Scott G. Winterton, Deseret News
Doctors have advised Jazz forward Matt Harpring to not play NBA basketball again because of injuries.

Matt Harpring hasn't officially retired, but — save for what he says would be "a miracle" — his NBA playing days are done.

Blame an injury-ravaged body.

After consulting with his wife and family, the Jazz's veteran small forward finally decided enough is enough, and a formal announcement that he'll miss the entire season — expected since the summer — came Thursday.

"I love basketball. There's no question about that," Harpring said in a telephone interview from his Atlanta home. "I devoted a lot of blood and heart and tears and sweat to the game, but I guess it has to end for everyone at some time."

Harpring confirmed he'll heed the advice of doctors who've said that — because of lingering ankle and knee problems stemming from a slew of injuries, numerous surgeries and considerable residual medical issues — it's no longer feasible for him to physically perform at an NBA level.

"It's definitely hitting me," he said when asked about the finality of it all, "but, you know, it's weird, because there are days I get up and my competitive nature comes out and says I can do this again. That's what makes it hard.

"But ... I know the medical side, and what I'm in for, and I have to trust what they've told me. It's not what I want. But that's life."

Harpring said he's been told that by exposing himself to additional pounding, "I'm just doing damage to my body.

"It can affect the way I walk and run at a young age, and that's a scary thought knowing I'm just 33," he said.

The Georgia Tech product said he fully anticipates some day needing total knee replacement surgery because of bone-on-bone contact in the cartilage-sapped joint, adding "hopefully there will be total ankle (replacement surgery) by the time I'm 50."

Harpring had been crossing his fingers, hoping he'd be able to continue.

But the forward known for gritty play didn't heal through rest as much as he'd hoped since first pondering retirement in the summer.

That's forcing the oldest player on Utah's roster to comply with doctor's orders, which — according to a news release from the team — included an admonition that further attempts at continued NBA play would be counterproductive in both the short and long term.

"Despite the wear and tear of four collegiate seasons, 11 NBA seasons and undergoing numerous surgeries, I remained hopeful I would be able to rejoin my Jazz teammates on the court this season," Harpring said in a statement. "However, after consultations with the doctors and based on their recommendations, I have reluctantly come to the realization that my body can simply no longer withstand the rigors of NBA games and practices."

Harpring isn't retiring, per se.

Not filing official retirement paperwork with the league allows him to collect the $6.5 million owed to him this season, and keeps open the possibility of his expiring contract getting used in a cost-saving trade.

The Jazz will only have to pay 20 percent of his salary once he's missed half the season and insurance covering the contract kicks in, but because of excessive payroll they also face massive luxury-tax fees that perhaps can reduced via trades.

If he were to play this season — the last year in a current four-year, $25 million deal — Harpring said he'd be required to sign a waiver acknowledging "knowing I'm doing bodily harm to myself."

Doing so makes no medical sense.

"There's life after basketball I have to be concerned about," he said by phone.

To that end, Harpring continues to contemplate his future.

Broadcasting is one possibility, and he's already made some studio appearances this season on Atlanta-based NBA TV. Coaching, or perhaps player development work, is another. So is being groomed for front-office work.

One or more of those career courses could be discussed when Harpring comes to Utah next week to meet with — and mostly thank — Jazz officials for the time he's spent with the franchise.

"The Jazz family — the Miller family, (coach) Jerry (Sloan), (general manager) Kevin (O'Connor), (president) Randy (Rigby) — (has) treated so well through all of this, and I feel very indebted to them," he said.

"They've given me a lot, and not just in basketball," added Harpring, who skipped training camp with permission and hasn't been with the team since the season started. "I feel a very strong connection to them, so I hope to stay close to the organization. I would like to do something productive for the organization, something I can help them out with, because I have a strong loyalty to them."

Harpring — who also played for Orlando, Cleveland and Philadelphia during his NBA career — has been with the Jazz since signing as a free agent on Aug. 15, 2002.

During seven seasons with Utah, he averaged 11.9 points, 4.9 rebounds and 25.8 minutes in 474 games.

His best statistical season was his first with the Jazz, when he started 69 of 78 games and scored 17.6 points per game on 51.1 percent shooting and pulled down 6.6 rebounds per game.

Despite dealing with injuries, he averaged 4.4 points, 2.0 boards and 11 minutes in 63 games last season, and last played for the club during its 2009 first-round playoff series with the Los Angeles Lakers.

"If they need me for anything, to do anything," Harpring said, "I'm there."